Monday, March 18, 2019

Sri Lankan Leopard

The Sri Lankan leopard, also known as the Ceylon leopard, is one of eight subspecies of leopard and is found only in Sri Lanka. It was listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2008. I have previously seen the African leopard, a different subspecies, in Serengeti NP in Tanzania and in the Okavanga Delta of Botswana
Sri Lankan leopard in Yala NP.
We were with Sanjay of Lankatracker in Block 1 of Yala National Park, an area which is 54 square miles, which has the highest concentration of leopards in the world. We saw three of the estimated (as of 2015) 700 to 950 Sri Lankan wild leopard population. 
Because it is an apex predator, without competition from lions or hyenas that the lions in Africa face, it has evolved into one of the largest of the leopard subspecies and it rarely carries its kill into trees to eat it (because it doesn't have to). 
It preys primarily on Axis deer, which we heard called spotted deer in Sri Lanka, but also sambar deer, wild boar, monkeys and other small mammals, birds and reptiles. 
I saw one leopard our first morning in Yala (Judy was not feeling well that morning and skipped the safari). We came across a congregation of about 15 safari vehicles waiting near a meadow full of wild water buffaloes. A guide in another vehicle told Sanjay that another guide had seen a leopard go into the trees on the far end of the meadow. Sanjay surmised that the leopard, which is afraid of water buffalo, was waiting for the water buffalo to leave and we waited patiently as most of the other vehicles abandoned the meadow and drove into the surrounding area looking for it. After a wait of about 20 minutes, Sanjay spotted the leopard and we drove about 75 yards and caught a great view of it as it walked into the open about 30 yards from us. The combination of my excitement, my long zoom lens giving little room for error, and having the lens on the wrong setting (no rapid shot photos), meant that I did not get as many good pictures as I should have. This was one of many instances of Sanjay's amazing spotting skills coming into play. 
Our next leopard spotting was the next morning in Yala. We were driving past an off-shoot road and Sanjay spotted two leopards on top of a large rock about 150 or 200 yards away. It took us a few seconds to see them. It was very early and still quite dark, so our pictures don't show as much of the beautiful color and detail. We watched the leopards go over the top of the rock then come back, before going over for good. We were all alone this time. We then drove to the other side of the rock and around the area several times looking for them. We saw their tracks in the dirt road, but that was it. A little later a mass of safari vehicles drove into the area to find the leopards, as Sanjay had called his buddies in some other vehicles and let out word of the sighting, but we were now going in the opposite direction, trying to avoid the crowding that they would bring. 
One of only a couple of photos of the two leopards together. 

Seeing a Sri Lankan leopard was one of my hopes as we planned our trip and I was thrilled that we the wish was fulfilled. 


  1. It was a spectacular moment when Sanjay spotted the two leopards--off a side road we weren't even on. We had to back up to go on the side road for a better view. It was a thrill to see them, and I think Sanjay was as excited as we were. It was fun to have a tracker who gets excited!

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  3. This is lovely! Thanks so much for sharing this with us! Yes, Judy, seeing a Leopard never gets old! It's always a thrill, every single time!